RACE DEBRIEF

    Not long after first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix was done and dusted, Red Bull ended their silence on who would partner Max Verstappen in 2022 with news that Sergio Perez would remain. So why did they keep him and what does that mean for the other drivers in the Red Bull family? Formula1.com's Senior Writer Lawrence Barretto explains all...

    Perez offers everything Red Bull need right now

    Red Bull dispensed with their strategy of running drivers from their junior programme this year in favour of experience with the recruitment of 10-season veteran Perez for 2021 for a plethora of reasons.

    READ MORE: Red Bull confirm Perez to stay with team for 2022

    One of the most important was their belief that the Mexican, who scored his first-ever F1 win in Bahrain late last year, could score heavily on a consistent basis – and pick up the mantle if Verstappen was out of contention.

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    Red Bull wanted a consistent points-scorer alongside Verstappen

    And while there have been times when Perez has been a little further off Verstappen than they would have hoped, and is fifth in the drivers’ standings, behind McLaren’s Lando Norris and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, his contribution has still been significant.

    After 11 races, he has amassed a tally of 104, which is nearly double that of Alex Albon – whom he replaced – at the same point last year. He is only four points behind Bottas and up until the last race in Hungary, his contribution along with Verstappen’s put Red Bull top of the pile in the constructors’. Even now they are only 12 points behind.

    READ MORE: Red Bull braced for grid penalties after Honda confirm Verstappen and Perez have both lost engines to crash damage

    Perez also seized his chance, when Verstappen had a tyre problem in Baku, to take his first victory for the team in what was only his sixth start.

    Then when you consider the massive regulation change that comes in next year, where Perez’s decade of experience will be invaluable as they look to understand and quickly develop the car, and the fact he gets on well with the other side of the garage, keeping him on was a no-brainer.

    2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Sergio Pérez takes his first Red Bull win in Baku

    Gasly set to lead AlphaTauri forward

    Ask folk in the paddock for their driver of the season so far, and Pierre Gasly’s name will come up a lot. The Frenchman has kicked on from last year, where he secured his first Grand Prix win at Monza, and scored his third career podium in Baku.

    READ MORE: AlphaTauri boss Tost hoping to keep both Gasly and Tsunoda for 2022

    Points in all but three races this year have ensured that AlphaTauri retain hope of securing the fifth place in the constructors’ championship that boss Franz Tost has long coveted. Red Bull have been impressed by his performance, and while they didn’t want to re-promote him to the works team, they do want him to lead their sister team.

    AlphaTauri have yet to confirm their driver plans, but sources say that it’s very likely the Frenchman will stay on with the team to which he returned at Spa in 2019.

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    Perez's contract will have a knock on effect on Pierre Gasly, who is set to stay at AlphaTauri

    Albon has eyes on a race seat elsewhere

    Perez’s fresh deal means reserve driver Albon’s hopes of getting his seat back are officially over. And while there is a chance he could return to AlphaTauri, I understand it’s more likely they will retain Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda.

    READ MORE: Williams boss Capito hints team will keep Latifi for 2022

    Red Bull have been very impressed by the job Albon has done as reserve, the Thai driver clocking up the miles in the simulator which have played a key part in Red Bull’s strong form this year. And they would be keen to keep him on.

    However, they also understand that he has a desire to race and would be supportive of a move if he can make one work. There are opportunities at Williams and Alfa Romeo next season, with sources saying a move to the former is currently his best bet.

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    If Albon does return to F1, he could well be driving for a team outside the Red Bull family